George’s Big Day

In the February issue, we asked for your thoughts on legislation to reestablish George Washington’s birthday, February 22, as a legal holiday. Here’s a sampling of what you had to say:

With the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, there is healthy debate as to which presidents rank among our greatest. No one can deny Washington’s position as father of our country. If nothing else, his refusal of monarchy set the tone for much of what makes our nation special. When we minimize his importance by diluting his birthday, we marginalize what it means to be American.

Buzz Woods

Stockton, N.J.

My husband and I remember when Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays were each celebrated. It is so sad that presidents who do not merit the honor get lumped in with Washington and Lincoln on “Presidents Day.” Presidents Day is a travesty. As long as those ads are running, we buy nothing.

Mary and Robert Anderson

Sun City, Ariz.

I respectfully disagree with you regarding the day for celebrating Washington’s birthday. The Declaration of Independence was adopted July 2, yet we celebrate July 4. The exact date takes nothing away from George Washington’s greatness. I am just happy the American people know who he is.

Richard Hundley

North Fork, Calif.

Both Washington and Lincoln deserve to get their birthdays back. However, leave it up to the states, not the federal government, to decide. Congress will only listen to special interest groups, and we are never going to beat the economic power of a three-day weekend.

Steve C. Baldwin

Austin, Texas

I recently read Ron Chernow’s biography of Washington, and I think he deserves more recognition for his steadfast integrity in most respects. But as long as he lived he owned slaves and didn’t always treat them respectfully. He shouldn’t be honored with a solo birthday holiday. Some other presidents were great men too.

David M. Freedman

Highland Park, Ill.

Finally, several 10th graders from Saint Albans High School in West Virginia agreed that Washington deserves his own holiday. “Without him,” wrote Lexie Cooper, “we wouldn’t have accomplished so much as a country.” A classmate admitted he hoped it would mean another day off from school.


Originally published in the April 2013 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here.